Thursday, August 25, 2011

Erika Smith, IndyGo Reporter

It seems like every time I see an article in the Star penned by Erika Smith, it shills for IndyGo or light rail, which I suppose would become an extension of IndyGo. It makes me wonder: Is she on the Star's payroll, or on IndyGo's? Or, is there a difference?
In Smith's latest ad, er, column, she points out something I point out about IndyGo with regularity- the combination of taxes and fares fails to cover the operating budget.

Another year, another shortfall.

This is IndyGo's story.

(Wait! Wait! Let's put on our surprised faces. Ready? OK, cool.)

This time around, the transit agency says it expects its budget to come up $6.4 million short in 2012. That's twice as big as the hole that IndyGo predicted and narrowly skirted last year.

Without an infusion of cash, possibly from a tax increase, fares could go up, bus routes could be eliminated and the frequency of service might be reduced.

Smith then does two things I don't do.

1. She promotes a tax hike
2. She fails to point out that taxes already make up about 80% of the IndyGo budget.

It would be nice if the officials who say they support building a robust regional transit system would prove it by voting for a tax increase, but I'm not holding my breath. That solution is too logical.

So instead, I've come up with some -- shall we say? -- out-of-the-box solutions to IndyGo's funding woes. When logic fails, it's time for the ludicrous.

My solution is to raise fares. The riders should pay for the service they use. Making those who do not ride pay to subsidize those who do ride is simply unjust. Now, THAT is too logical, I'm sure. It's the American Way anymore, to take from the majority and give to a small segment of the population. We wonder why we're in an economic freefall. To what extent is the fare a gift? Double it, and you still haven't reduced the operating ratio to half.

It would be nice if the promoters of mass transit were honest enough to read a balance sheet and to disclose how heavily subsidized it already is, rather than making it sound like the riders are bearing the huge burden of paying full fare, while the taxpayers stand by and admire the buses.

I've written many times on this subject. Here is a link to those many, wonderful, redundant posts- many of which have links to IndyGo balance sheets.


James Briggs Stratton "Doghouse" Riley said...

Fifty percent of Federal highway funding comes from general revenues. That means that in Indiana $450 million of the $900 plus million in FY 2009 came from some source other than highway use taxes.

Nationally we subsidize the trucking industry to the tune of $2 billion a year in highway maintenance costs.

Indiana's now spending 20-30% of its total highway budget on the I-69 boondoggle, scheduled to be completed sometime between the end of the Toll Road lease and the invention of the personal atomic-powered rocket car, to benefit what percentage of Hoosiers?

We're also about to spend half-a-billion dollars widening I-69 in Hamilton county as a reward for Fishers' program of incontinent, unfettered, and zoning-free development.

So, y'know, $1.5 million, none of which is yours, for a less-than adequate mass-transit system seems relatively low on the outrage meter to me; ask me again when I start paying vanity and graft fees for a light rail system that'll benefit literally dozens of Fishers residents. In the meantime, I pay a wheel tax for the upkeep of Marion county roads. I've put a tip jar out in front of my house. Toss in a few coins next time you drive by.

Mike Kole said...

Which is this? Red herring, or straw man? I've never been good at identifying these.

I don't want subsidies to trucking.

I don't want a federal road building shell game empire whereby there is no accountability due to the fact that as much as 80% of the money for any given state's construction comes from the other 49 states.

I was opposed to building I-69 in southern Indiana.

I'd prefer to see user fees pay for the roads. That could be tolls, gas taxes, or a combination.

If you think there isn't any zoning in Fishers, try to build without a permit and see what happens.

In sum, rather than adding another boondoggle (light rail) as justification for all the others, I'd rather not launch the new boondoggle, and reign in the others to the extent it can be done.

Mike Kole said...

Rail's just a pet peave of mine, because I'm a railfan. It's a strange position to be in: I love trains and ride them when I can. I just don't expect everybody else to provide them for me.